London (Aug. 2)
The danger to Israel posed by Egyptian President Nasser’s constant threats was raised in Commons today as the House continued its debate on Egypt’s seizure of the Suez Canal. The question was raised by Labor leader-Hugh Gaitskell who, at the same time, urged that Britain’s arms freeze on Egypt be extended also to Syria and Lebanon.
Mr. Gaitskell insisted that Nasser had given “clear enough notice” of intention of aggression against Israel and warned that the Suez seizure will constitute a greatly increased threat to Israel. He warned that Britain was obligated under the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 to go to the assistance of either Israel or any Arab state if it were attacked.
Pointing out that at this very moment a ship was being loaded with munitions for Syria and Lebanon, he asked that the government place those states under the same arms ban as Egypt. The Labor leader recommended the building of an oil pipeline between the Gulf of Akaba and Haifa which, he said, could be done in a matter of months.
Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden drew severe criticism from the House when he made a statement today that British policy in reference to the Suez Canal was “always” based on freedom of passage. He was interrupted by shouts of “Israel” from the Labor benches.
After an exchange between the Prime Minister and Sidney Silverman, Labor M.P. Sir Anthony admitted that his use of the word “always” had not included consideration of the Egyptian blockade of the Canal against Israeli shipping. In the course of the discussion, Sir Anthony insisted that Israel’s case was in another category, because the current Egyptian action would make the future use of the canal solely dependent on Egypt.
Mr. Silverman told him that if Britain had held to the principle of “always” and had fought in Israel’s behalf Britain’s position now would be much stronger. The Prime-Minister noted that the last Lab or Government had taken the question to the United Nations and it had been dealt with then.
In a parallel debate in the House of Lords, Lord Stansgate asked that no attempt be made to “use Israel as a pawn in the game of fighting the Arabs. It is a fatal mistake,” he added. He warned those who wanted to obtain a base at Haifa that they would be doing Israel a disservice. Finally, he stressed the need for protecting Israel.